Posted by: Frederik Balfour on August 21, 2008
In what appears to be the latest example of the long arm of Chinese censorship, the authorities have been blocking access to the iTunes library for the past several days. According to discussions on Apple’s online support page, users based in China who normally access the iTunes store using overseas registered accounts have been unable to download songs.
As you scroll down through the thread of the frustrated postings, eventually one user posted the following reply he says is from Apple support team member named Bryan.
My name is Bryan and I understand that you have not been able to connect to the iTunes store for the last couple days and that you are concerned that it would be an issue with China blocking the iTunes store. I’m sorry to hear that and I’m happy to assist you with this today.
ITunes is not being blocked in China from our end, but access to the iTunes Store IS restricted in some areas in China. This would also explain why it’s happening to your friends there as well.
I would advise that you contact your ISP about this matter. Please also note though that accessing the US iTunes Store outside of the geographic region of the United States is not supported, and that attempting to access it while in China is at your own risk.
The iTunes Store Sales and Service Policies are available for you to review:
Terms of Sale
Terms of Service
Thank you for being a valued iTunes Store customer. I hope that you have found the above information helpful and that you have a great day!
iTunes Store Customer Support
So why the sudden clampdown? The most plausible explanation is that the Chinese want to prevent access to iTunes in retaliation for its decision to offer a Tibet Solidarity album that was released on the iTunes store earlier this month. The album entitled “Songs of Tibet” features artists including Sting, John Mayer, Alanis Morrisette and Moby, has been widely popular since its release. But when word got out that 40 Olympic athletes took advantage of an offer to download the music for free, it triggered a backlash from Chinese netizens. For more on this click on this China.org website.
So far I have not been able to get any official comment from Apple, but I’ll certainly update you once they get back to me. You can bet they aren’t welcoming the publicity. Apple launched its first stand-alone store in Beijing on the eve of the Olympics, though some of its most popular products, including the iPhone, are not available for sale. [Check the story from my colleague Bruce Einhorn about rogue iPhone sales Protracted negotiations on getting the iPhone for sale officially continue, and you can bet that Apple doesn’t want to irritate the authorities by complaining about how the firewall is preventing a bunch of expatriates from accessing iTunes when it might jeopardize Apple’s chances of tapping the huge domestic market for the iPhone.